SBC Summit Barcelona – Digital got off to a flying start today with a keynote session involving two of the most influential figures in sports betting. Carsten Koerl, CEO and Founder of Sportradar, and Jason Robins, Chairman, CEO and Co-Founder of DraftKings, took part in an exclusive In Conversation session titled The Future of Sports Betting.
Koerl, who has built Sportradar into the world’s largest sports data, content and integrity services provider, began with a summary of how his company responded to the onset of the COVID pandemic.
“In two days we lost 99% of live matches, the fuel which we need to have to offer our products,” he said. “All of a sudden you saw all the markets around the world shutting down in two or three days. I began to think, what can we do now. I called the bankers. I said to them how much money do I have in the private account, how can I shift that over to help the company if necessary? What is our burn rate? And I did something which I hadn’t done in 20 years – a rolling cash flow plan.”
That lack of ‘fuel’ needed a vigorous response, as Koerl explained: “Without matches you’re going to need to be damn creative. We went from 20,000 matches monthly within the crisis to 70,000 matches in July. We tripled the number of live matches within the crisis without normal content and that was the key to success for us in that period and you can only achieve that with learning and being humble.”
Robins, one of the key leaders in the development of the US sports betting industry, believes that the emergence of COVID and its impact on trading has had a transformative effect on the market. “Something remarkable started happening,” he noted. “I think for the only time I can ever recall in my lifetime the stock markets started thinking beyond next quarter. And the reason that stock markets started to think that way is because no one could make any sense of what the upcoming quarter’s results were going to be.
“So they threw it out the window and said alright which companies could be better positioned than they were coming into this and whenever this ends. And a lot of narrative started to develop around the potential for states which were going to be facing major budget gaps to potentially look at legalizing online sports betting and maybe even igaming.”
Without the distraction of the usual weight of televised sport, Robins said that there was much more room to focus his team on “what’s next”. He explained: “We said there are three objectives here. First thing is how do we make sure we engage our customers when there’s no traditional sports on television?
“And we started doing everything from creating pools around television shows and political debates and things like that to expanding into alternative sports like Korean baseball and table tennis. We integrated with Carsten’s company, streaming from a number of these sports because you couldn’t watch them easily every day.”
Robins added: “The second thing we said is how do we make sure that all of our employees are safe, that everybody is productive. So we’ve been doing a lot of work to understand how we are doing – everything from productivity metrics to health and wellness, mental health and wellness.
“Lastly we talked about how we make sure we’re as positively positioned to compete and win as possible on the other side of this thing. We talked about making sure we had plenty of capital, which we did. We talked about making sure that we were making investments in product innovation and things we thought we could roll out in the fourth quarter. Making sure we had things ready to go from a marketing standpoint. It’s easy to get caught up in the panic but we remained focused and said those were the objectives and spent a lot of time planning.”
On how the industry might change in the coming months Koerl predicted that a greater need for cash is likely to generate new openings. He said: If I’m looking to the markets I can only underline that there is a demand for cash and cash will be generated by taxes for the governments.
“So this will probably accelerate market openings and provide opportunities. We see this already in the US. It is still a very painful process state by state, but we see the likelihood that this is accelerating much better than we saw last year. So we see a positive trend here that is very much driven by cash demand and taxes.”
Focusing specifically on development stateside, Koerl added: “I think both Jason and myself are very close to the US market. This is the place to be looking from a total addressable market size what you can achieve at the moment. There is a lot of innovation in that space – it’s very interesting to see that three years ago everybody talked about pre-match betting in Vegas, that’s it. And now the whole market is live betting. There is a big dynamic and trajectory into this.”
SBC Summit Barcelona – Digital is a FREE to attend virtual conference and exhibition running from 8-11 September. To register for your free ticket or find out more please visit – https://sbcevents.com/sbc-summit-barcelona-digital/